I’m a few weeks away from my thirty-second birthday. I get to the gym when I can, push the baby stroller around the nearby track a couple of times a week when the weather is nice. I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape- my trunk isn’t overly full of “junk”, and I wouldn’t describe my “dumps” as being particularly truck-like. So it came as a surprise yesterday morning when I bent down to retrieve a pair of yoga pants from my bottom dresser drawer and felt an ominous pop in my lower back.
Expletive, I thought. Actually it was more like, EXPLETIVE!!! Throwing out my back was not an option. I had a house to clean, a baby to tote around, and it was one of those rare days when the yoga pants I had been planning to wear were actually for yoga class, as opposed to going to Target, dropping off the dry cleaning and driving through the carpool line. I know those activities don’t require stretchy pants, but I like to save my denim for special occasions.
My children didn’t care that I was injured. It didn’t impact their behavior in the slightest. Ceci, who is well into the terrible twos, backed herself into the playroom closet, where she was clearly pooping, and refused to budge to have her diaper changed. (“No… I just going to stay in the closet for a little while.” If you ask me, a child who is capable of verbally expressing her wish to poop in a closet is probably capable of being potty trained. Add that to my list of things to do.) I had to put down the fifteen-pound infant I was holding and potato-sack my defiant thirty-something-pound toddler up the stairs and into her room to get her cleaned up while she struggled against any attempt I made to put pants on her. Because why would I want to wear pants, mom? Seriously.
In times of illness or injury I am reminded of the physical work of motherhood, which becomes such a seamless part of our day-to-day lives that we fail to notice the toll it takes on our bodies. I have come to accept the aches and exhaustion as normal, a product of endless bending, stooping, kneeling, lifting, wrestling, carrying. Even yesterday, injured back and all, I clutched six-month-old Alex with one arm while vacuuming with the other, the burning in my biceps and back preferable to her frenzied shriek each time I tried to set her down.
Before Alex was born, I wrote a post called “Why I Can’t Put My Feet Up”. I still can’t. Now that taking care of my kids and my home is my only job, I’m less forgiving of myself than ever. During the morning hours, when my older two are at preschool, I hurry from task to task, trying to accomplish everything in the small window between drop-off and pickup. It’s never enough time, so I find myself cutting the stupidest of corners.
Let’s say, for example, that I arrive home after grocery shopping. I’m starving, thirsty, and I have to pee, but somehow unloading the food takes precedence over meeting my own pressing physical needs. Just as I put away the last jar of salsa, Alex wakes up. She’s
hungry. Looks like my bladder will just have to wait! And the other day I was spreading peanut butter on a stalk of celery and suddenly thought of a bill that needed to be paid. I was about to drop the celery and find my checkbook when I said, out loud to myself like I was totally mental, “Stop, Jenny. Stop and eat the freaking celery!” (Confession: I didn’t say “freaking”.)
Despite the frenetic baby-holding vacuuming session and the fact that I also moved both my washer and dryer while in search of the source of a suspicious smell, my back is feeling slightly better. And it’s not because I’m taking the time to care for it and let it heal, or because I’ve audibly demanded that it get itself together. Like a toddler who doesn’t feel like wearing pants, it just doesn’t have an expletive choice. This is life with three kids five and under. It leaves me sore, feeling about two decades older than I am. It’s difficult and exhausting. It takes everything I have, body included. My life is my workout.
The good news is, I think I’ve just found a way to justify my over-use of yoga pants.